The NBA Playoffs: Difference Makers

Zack KingstadContributor IApril 18, 2009

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 4:  Travis Outlaw #25 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots a jump shot against Vladimir Radmanovic #10 of the Los Angeles Lakers on January 4, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.    NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

          I decided I wanted to write an article about the players most people won’t be watching for.  Players who I feel will potentially make a difference for their squads in this year's playoffs.

We’ll start in the Eastern Conference.

In the Cavs(1) vs. Detroit(8) series, I think Hickson and Gibson off the bench will be a good spark for the Cavs.  I’d also watch out for Szczerbiak and Pavlovic’s outside shooting because if they get hot even, for a couple of minutes, it can definitely help the Cavs' second unit.

On the opposing side for Detroit, I feel Bynum and Maxiell will definitely give Cleveland's second unit some problems at times.  Gibson’s outside game will give a huge boost to the Cavs at times throughout the playoffs.  Meanwhile Jason Maxiell’s strength inside could definitely give the Cavs some problems in the paint.

In the Hawks(4) vs. Heat(5) series, I foresee Marvin Williams (providing he’s healthy), Murray and Maurice Evans causing problems for Miami at times.  Murray is a real crafty scorer and if gets hot he can go off for 10-15 in a quarter real quick.    

On the flipside, I think Cook, Moon and Haslem can cause problems off the bench for Miami.  Haslem has the championship experience that may help propel them off the bench both defensively and offensively.

In the Magic(3) vs. 76ers (6) series Lee, Pietrus and Gortat could cause issues for the Dr. J’ers.  Lee’s defense could give the Sixers' second unit some problems and his offense isn’t too bad either.  Pietrus’s athleticism should definitely give him an edge vs. whoever’s guarding him.

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  For Philly, I think their youngsters Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young off the bench can definitely create mismatches vs. Orlando.  Williams is a real speedy guard who has AI-esque flashes at times.  If for some reason you don’t know who Thaddeus Young is by now, you’ll know who he is a year from now I guarantee you that.

In the Celtics(2) vs. Chicago(7) series with KG supposedly out for the entire playoffs a huge load is instantly cast upon Perkins, Davis, Moore & Powe.  The Celtics success this year lies hugely upon their “BIGS” output, that is if KG is indeed out.  Having said that I think depending on how Marbury and House do off the bench will affect how far Ray Ray & PP can carry them.    

On Chi-towns side I think Hinrich, Noah and Miller can definitely give their 2nd unit a huge boost and perhaps this is where the Bulls in this series may have an advantage if any.  If Hinrich and Miller can help anchor the bench offensively for even 10 minutes a night or whatever is needed while the starters rest they have a chance in this series.

Onto the Western Conference.

In the Lakers(1) vs. Jazz(8) series I think you’re going to see teams benches make a huge difference.  Can the Jazz match up against a mix match of Odom, Ariza, Brown, Farmar, Vujacic and Walton for the Lakers?  I don’t think anyone’s bench in the league can and the benches success, specifically Lamar Odom’s output will largely shape how far the Lakers go and how easily they do it.

On Utah’s side you have Korver, Kirilenko and Millsap who are no slouches in their own right.  I think Odom’s offensive game will cause Kirilenko to wear out over the series, which will affect his offensive game.  From there I don’t know if you can put everything else on Korver and Millsap or at least enough to make a difference vs. LA’s potent offense and speedy 2nd unit.

In the Blazers(4) vs. Rockets(5) series the whole 2nd unit for Portland is deep even with Martell Webster being out for the year.  I think the difference makers in this series for Portland will be Outlaw’s offense and Oden’s defense, especially if J.Pryz(Pryzbilla) gets in early foul trouble vs. Yao.

On Houston’s side you’ve got a nice young group as well, with Von Wafer, Landry & Chuck Hayes.  I definitely expect Wafer to get his in this series when he comes in.  Will see if they’re bench can match Portland’s intensity.  Don’t be surprised if Rick Adelman puts in Mutombo to make things tougher on Oden on the boards as well as on GO’s offensive game.

In the Spurs(3) vs. Mavericks(6) series you’ve got a lot of vets some of us have grown up watching over the last 10 years plus.  I think for San Antonio a mix of Mason, Hill, Bowen, Finley and Gooden will definitely help give the starters a rest at times. 

For Dallas I think the possible difference makers will be Barea, Green, Bass & Wright(depending on Howard’s health).  Barea if he gets hot can drop 20 at any point and Green/Bass’s athleticism may cause problems for the older vets(Finley/Bowen) of San Antonio at times.

In the Nuggets(2) vs. Hornets(7) series I think JR Smith will be the difference maker.  He’s proven himself in the playoffs before and I expect George Karl to ride his hot shooting as long as he can.  I also expect a consistent and solid defensive output by the man who left his Hornets nest in New Orleans to come back to his mile high perch in Denver, “The Birdman” Chris Andersen.  His defensive game has been on as of late now that he’s healthy and his energy off the bench will be welcomed by all Nugget fans.  I also expect Jones to at times D CP3 and Kleiza/Balkman to provide some lift for the Nugs.      

On the opposite side for the Hornets I think their whole 2nd unit can make a difference.  Depending on Chandler’s health, Ely/Armstrong will provide some down low help they’ll need on the much physically larger specimen Nene.  Posey, Brown and Wright at times will be the necessary scorers for the Hornets bench.  I think the Hornets success in this series largely lies upon Chandler/Stojakovic’s health.  If they’re healthy this should be a real exciting series to watch.

Tell me who you guys think will make the biggest difference for their teams off the bench?